“No, Lizzy!” Edouard begged. “Please don’t make me do this!”
“We’re doing it.”
It was soothing to bring colour into the apartment and I realised that there was something else missing. We had done well to avoid Ikea all of this time. But I was in dire want of plants. I had been surrounded by nature for so long that I now felt suffocated surrounded by stone walls. I needed greenery. Despite our misgivings on Ikea, it was far cheaper to go there than to pay the extortionate prices of the local florists.
“I don’t want to go to Ikea!” Edouard whined.
“We’re going,” I said firmly. “And you’ll have to behave yourself.”
We stepped into the vortex of blue and yellow, as other couples surrounded us, excitedly grabbing their trolleys and carrier bags to find goodies to transform their home. Edouard watched them as if in bemusement, holding my hand as I pulled him further in.
“Lizzy, I don’t like it here!”
Edouard pouted and faux cried the entire way around, devastated when we were made to start at the top.
“There’s no escaping here!” he said, his eyes wide as he realised their trap.
“I know,” I said, preparing myself for an hour of him muttering quiet French. “You have to walk the entire way around.”
I didn’t mention that we could probably take a lift down to a particular level, content to be amused at his theatrics.
“I don’t want to be in Ikea!” he cried as he followed me around with a trolley.
Pulling on his sleeve, I dragged him with me, trying to keep myself focused on the task at hand and not get lured in by bright colours or shiny things.
I was amazed how much money we had saved.
“Look at that,” I said, pointing to a sofa similar to ours. It was over a thousand euros. A table and chairs were several hundred euros. And a sturdy desk was over a hundred.
We had saved thousands. I was astounded suddenly at my eagerness in the past to always go to Ikea. Whenever you moved in somewhere, you always went there to get pretty much everything you needed- nearly everyone I knew had done the same.
But we had found around 90% of our furniture on the streets and bought everything else for a minimum price. Edouard had built pretty much everything by hand, sitting down and doing diagrams and drawings as he came up with new ideas on making things more efficient and beautiful.
But one thing was for certain, I didn’t want to take plants from the woodlands and didn’t have money to buy them in the stores in Marseille. I was placated by picking up two small potted ivy plants for 3 euros each and a large fern that reminded me of Brazil for 18 euros.
“I’ll call him Hubert!” I announced happily as we walked out of the place finally, Edouard looking as though he could finally breathe again.
He whooped and cheered as he ran across the carpark with the trolley and I laughed, glad that he wasn’t like other people. He wasn’t meant for places like Ikea. He wasn’t meant to wear suits or abide by schedules. He wasn’t made to be a sheep, following the crowd and obeying the rules. He was a wild man.
And I wouldn’t want him any other way.
Edouard named the ivy pants Tic and Tac when we arrived back at the apartment. We were having a house warming party that night and I realised in surprise that we had been in Marseille for two weeks.
Our home was shaping up and we were getting a routine sorted finally.
I would wake, have breakfast with Edouard and a pot of tea, would paint for a while and then do some work for Delos. I suppose you could call me “Shore Support”. We would pause for lunch and then I would continue writing The Delos Story. In amidst of all this, we would be working on the apartment, cleaning or going out for walks- probably not as much as we would have liked.
But we understood everything would come in time.
Edouard worked non stop of making the apartment into a home for us both. I was genuinely impressed with his ability to build anything and touched by his wish to create anything I wanted.
If I ever said, “I think it would be good if we had this…” He would build “it” immediately, pouring his entire heart and attention into the task of hand.
For the first time in a long time, I felt wholly loved.
After sailing and spending time working in Tanzania, he wanted to take some time off for himself with me in Marseille, set up a home and finally write his book. It made me happy to watch him pour over his notes, getting excited when he read back the entries and translated the paragraphs for me.
I wanted him to do that, preferring him to spend time doing what he loved. His books of diaries, diagrams and drawings from his sailing adventure would lie on the table as he eagerly tapped away on the laptop.
He’s determined to find work in Marseille, and I wish that I could help him find the perfect place where he could grow his skills and be happy being there each day. I think sometimes people expect they’re not supposed to enjoy their jobs.
“That’s why it’s called work,” a family member told me. “You’re not supposed to enjoy it.”
But I was adamant that I never wanted that. I didn’t want to end up in a place where I would be wishing I was somewhere else. Maybe that was why I quit so many times. I was always of the opinion that if I was ever unhappy somewhere, that I would leave that place immediately. Call it being irresponsible, but I call it being precious over my life. If it was a simple matter of money, I could get a bar job anywhere.
But it wasn’t about money. It was about being happy.
But I was happy. Incredibly happy. I was working alongside my family on Delos, finally doing the very thing I loved, writing every day, painting and living with my wild man. It was something I had always wanted to do, always promising myself that I would do as my profession.
I wanted to stay true to that.
I wanted the same for Edouard, but he knows that already and is already on his own path. Coming from a background of creating super yachts, if he wanted to earn thousands he could the very next day. But he stayed true to himself and said no, because he was unhappy there. He has so many skills that I suppose we don’t really know where to start! Working as a carpenter in the past, he’s also worked in the fields for harvest season and arranged community youth projects all across the world- not to mentioned sailing across an ocean.
I didn’t care what he did- as long as he was happy doing it.
I was happy in Marseille, finally closer to my dream goal than I had ever been.
“What are your plans?” my dad asked me one day on the phone.
“I don’t have any right now,” I admitted.
“So what are you doing in France? When are you going home?”
I suppose no young woman wants to tell her father that she’s decided to move in with a French sailor she met for five days on an island in another country, but I struggled to find any other answer.
“All I know is that I need to be still for a while,” I explained slowly. “We’ve now got an incredible apartment, Marseille is beautiful, I’m in a job I love and I’m really happy with Edouard. I mean- I live in the South of France now as a writer. I did it.”
I heard him grunt on the other side and imagined him smiling. “Well good,” he said simply. “I’m glad you’re happy.”
I knew the real happiness for him would be if I moved back to Australia, but I think there’s a real honesty between my dad and I. I couldn’t tell him that. Since I was a child, all I ever wanted to be was a writer. I quit so many jobs, adamant that it was ok because, “I want to be a writer anyway.” It had taken so much to break his heart and leave Australia in the first place in March to go to Delos. I couldn’t go back to where I had started.
It was about moving forwards.
I hung up the phone after talking to him for a little longer, a happiness crawling within my stomach that he was pleased for me. We spoke of the future, of being all together one day and I was smiling with the knowledge that my family were at peace with my choices.
My gamble had paid off.
My family had been terrified when I first told them I was going off to sail with a bunch of people around Africa and to Brazil. I suppose they thought I was drifting again, unknowing of where I was supposed to be. But for the first time with Delos, I knew exactly where my place was.
I sat on the windowsill, looking out at the sky with a glass of wine as I mulled over everything that had happened. So much had taken place and I felt like a different person. The choices I had made, the terrifying leaps and the diving into the unknown had brought me here.
“I live in the bloody South of France,” I muttered to myself, as if saying it out loud would finally make it real.
Tic and Tac sat happily in the sunshine, the leaves gently rustling in the mild breeze as Hubert stood stoically against the wall. Freshly watered, they were the sudden burst of green I was thirsting for, the injection of life that I needed within the old brick walls within a stone built city.
Being in the apartment was opening up a whole new world for me and I realised that it was just the start of us finding our paths. We had wanted stillness for so long, and now we had it. We were still so we could hear the sounds around us, could finally get our bearings and figure out what we needed to do or where we wanted to go.
To find our direction.
Edouard and I were still keen to travel in the future, wanting to set up projects to help people in the communities Edouard had been in before. We wanted to keep a base in France and be able to travel as we wished, help and explore for a couple of months at a time, returning to France to organise the next project. I wanted to carry on writing children’s books and release the sequel of The Contract of Maddox Black. I hoped to open my own shop of my artwork and prints.
We had plans, hopes, dreams and aspirations, talking about them deep into the night with the stars shining just outside our window.
We were excited, hopeful and content.
Content to be still for now.